I really wouldn’t eat that

Today I bought a rice crispy square from the vending machine at my work.

This is not an unusual occurrence. I purchase a lot of things from machines that require loose change because I have a palate that easily forgives bagged or wrapped goods.

I would wager a guess that I eat anywhere between two and four rice crispies a week, and am completely non-discriminatory between those procured from vending machines and those created in our cafeteria’s kitchen.

This lack of discernment is a huge black mark on my character, I know.

Anyways, today at noon I rushed downstairs to buy this snack, and as I hadn’t yet eaten anything, I was feeling particularly ravenous.

I inserted my dollar fifty and greedily eyed the package as it fell into the machine’s retrieval void. As I picked it up, I noticed that the wrapping was a little suspect. There were no rips or punctures, but its rather ramshackle appearance did give me pause: what the hell had happened to this bar during its transportation from the factory to its final destination?

Unfortunately, I didn’t wax long on these thoughts before tearing right into it.

As I sat at my desk and munched away at my “lunch” (like the depraved feral animal that I am), I noticed that there was a strange colour coming out of the second half of the packaging. Upon closer inspection I could see that it was, in fact, a hair.

A long, black hair.

A long, black hair that had wrapped itself around my snack, like some angry, follicly-born anaconda (a real medusa-like foe) that was all too ready to squeeze the life out of me and turn me to stone.

I turned to my colleague and said, “I don’t feel so good about this.”

And she said, “That’s because you definitely shouldn’t.”

My stars.

No doubt I am probably going to contract some kind of tropical fever and all I will have to show for myself is the contents of my work waste paper basket.

Talk about a legacy.

This is not the first time something like this has happened.

When Marc and I were living in England in 2009, we spent a week in Scotland scampering about Edinburgh and St. Andrews. When we weren’t hiking Arthur’s Seat in severe windstorms, or running along the beach Chariots of Fire-style, we were doing the things that most twenty-four year olds do when travelling: drinking too much and staying out too late.

One night, I asked Marc to take me to the Oxford Bar – the drinking establishment frequented by Inspector Rebus, the fictional detective and misanthropic protagonist of Ian Rankin’s best selling novels. You see, we had very limited internet access in our flat back in Birmingham, and in the absence of ever being online, I read about fifty odd Rebus books during the months that I was studying at the city’s university.

Now that we were in his city, it was imperative that I drink at the bar in which he like to drink.

We started out at the Oxford – me with white wine and Marc with a dark, bitter beer. It was there that we decided, being as it was that we were poor as hell students, that our nightly budget was to be spent on alcohol, and alcohol alone.

From there, were began our own Scottish bar crawl, venturing into both the shadiest of underground establishments and the absolute poshest of speakeasys – though we made a point not to linger in the latter.

At one of the bars, we were invited to join a Marks and Spencer’s Christmas party where I was gifted many glasses of wine, and Marc about one million shots of whiskey.

By the time we were sitting in the last bar of the night – a cozy little space right off of the royal mile – I could hardly feel my face. When the waiter came over to take our orders, it was all I could do to croak out: “One glass of water please.”

Marc, steadfast and brazen, ordered a scotch.

I’ll never forget picking up my water, taking a sip, and blurting out, “This water tastes like a shoe.”

It was a quarter to 3am, and it was time for bed.

But the problem being – there was no way in hell that we could return to our hostel in such rough shape. We needed food and we needed it right away.

There was a late-night diner just up the road from where we were staying, and having completely forgotten our plan of “no food, only booze” we both ordered burgers and milkshakes.

I had ordered a veggie patty with melted cheesed and when it came I didn’t even hesitate. I tore into that thing like David Attenborough was narrating my life. What I didn’t expect however, was to pull out a very orange, very plastic looking thing from inside the bun.

Puzzled, I turned to Marc and whispered, “What the hell is that?”

Marc, hammered, and intensely focused on consuming his food, looked me straight into the eyes and replied, “Oh man. Babe. That’s a piece of cheese with the wrapper still on.”

Horrified, but also cognizant of the fact that I was inebriated up the yin yang and insecure that the staff already thought me a belligerent American, I shuffled up to the counter and shyly inquired, “Ummm, excuse me? Is this cheese with the wrapper on?”

The woman stared and me for a long beat before answering in her strong Scottish brogue, “That’s a roasted bell pepper.”

“Oh,” I said. “I see. Thank you. So sorry for the trouble.”

The total embarrassment I felt in that moment precipitated an almost immediate sobering. Marc and I grabbed our milkshakes and beat a speedy exit out of there.

Back in our hostel we laughed ourselves silly before falling into bed. I remember drifting off to sleep thinking if this was the last night of my life, it would be one for the annals.

And now, compared to my imminent rice crispy doom, a much better way to go.

Live Out There Exclusive: “How to hit the gym before work”

Any veteran reader of Rant and Roll will know that I have a storied history with the gym. In fact, the first time I was freshly pressed (way, way back in 2012!) it was because of a post about how I both loved and loathed my (then) gym.

However, when I suffered a small tear in my right calf muscle last fall, and rejoined the land of the gym dwellers, I had no idea how much I would love incorporating the gym into my early mornings! This month on Live Out There, I wrote about how you too can learn to love hitting the gym before the sun rises, and how to get the most out of your workout.

I used to balk at the idea of getting up and exercising before work. My line of reasoning? I had to wake up early enough, so why the heck would I ever choose to rise before necessity strictly demanded it of me? Sleep, after all, is a hugely valuable commodity and I was fiercely proud of my ability to distill my morning routine down to the bare minimum. At my best I could get my (very presentable) self out of the door in twenty minutes or less.

But then I moved to the lovely little Hamlet known as New Westminster and began taking the skytrain into my job every day. At the station closest to my house there is Dynamic Fitness, a lovely, evenly priced gym, and last autumn, as I nursed a torn calf muscle, I took out a membership. I thought I would give a pre-work workout a try, just to see if I could hack an early morning sweat. I could use the gym’s showers and leave my stuff in a locker during the day. What did I have to lose?

Continue reading my top tips for transitioning to early morning workouts here.

Live Out There Exclusive: “Go Your Own Way: The Best Kept Secrets of a Solo Adventure”

Hey kids! I recently started blogging with the awesome outdoor apparel and adventure company Live Out There and I am very excited to share with you my pieces as they are being published. I recently penned a post about why sometimes adventuring “bear by yourself” (as my mother would say) trumps grinding it out as a group. I hope you enjoy!

Go Your Own Way: The Best Kept Secrets of a Solo Adventure

There are many great things about adventuring with a loved one.

A plus-one means having a companion in arms for when the going gets tough; it means greater variety in food and snacks; and probably best of all, it means having someone to share in the epic views of a crested peak or conquered valley.

But the thing is, trekking and exploring solo is just as awesome and awe-inspiring as going out as a pair. In fact, I would argue that it is actually better.

Find out why here.

I got tunnel vision

First. I implore you all to listen to this song as you read this entry:

I am seeing Yukon Blonde next Friday night in celebration of my 31st year living amongst all of you lovers and lunatics, and in preparation, I’ve had this tune on mega replay.

I hope you enjoy.

Onwards!

Today I was meaning to venture back to Buntzen Lake (land of lost toenails and forgotten sandwiches), and run 24 kilometers. However, when I awoke this morning my heart was feeling a little heavy, and the sky outside was hanging so terribly low. Knowing that this malaise would not bode well for an incredibly long and tough training session on unfamiliar terrain, I thought instead to keep to a route I have completed many times prior.

There would be nothing wrong with saving the trails for another day.

When I set out to run the 19 kilometer loop from my house (I run to Edmonds Skytrain, across the Queensborough Bridge, down the Quay and home), the temperature read 3 degrees, and it was raining.

Everything about this was manageable. I love long runs in the rain, and like I wrote previously, I am trying to acclimatize myself to running in colder temperatures.

This would be good practice, and thus, I forwent a toque and gloves.

The first indication that I might have misjudged my need for these accoutrements, was about two kilometers into the route when it really started to rain.

I kept imagining the raindrops to be infinitesimal water balloons exploding on my face the moment they made contact with my skin. There were even a few times when I questioned whether or not I was actually crying, because I could feel so many of them sliding down from the corner of my eyes, along my cheeks, and into the crooks of my ears.

(They were also really, really cold.)

The iciness of the rain was augmented by the strong, driving wind. Depending on the direction I was running, it would whip up against my long sleeve shirt and press the soaked fabric hard against my skin. I kept cramming my thumbs into my fists in an attempt to mute some of the frosty sting that had settled into both digits.

Yet despite all of this (or perhaps even because of this), I actually had a run that was absolutely out of this world.

It didn’t matter that I got sprayed by semi trucks whilst running over the bridge, or that I had “Tunnel Vision” by Tokyo Police Club stuck in my head for the entirety of the run.

I felt fantastic. I felt like I was flying.

(Quick aside and question for all runners reading this: Do you ever get to a place where you sing the same four bars of music over and over again for the entire length of a run? It is a constant in my training life.)

Truly, the only slightly unfortunate thing about the entire experience was when I arrived home and I caught sight of myself in the bathroom mirror.

Suffice to say that I looked FUCKING CRAZY.

Before I left, I had parted my hair down the middle and then braided it down the length of my back, and tucked my (now grown out) bangs behind my ears. However, between the wind, rain, and general propulsion of my body for 19 kilometers, they had matted and tangled themselves into some sort of insane halo-birds nest mashed atop the crown of my head.

And folks?

This. This is not a good look.

Marc told me that he hadn’t wanted to say anything due to my elation at the success of the run.

“But yeah,” he said. “You looked totally nuts.”

In the end, I ran 19.3 km in approximately 1:20. I’m chalking this up to my first week of two-a-days, my insatiable craving for Ms. Vickie’s salt-and-vinegar chips, and Yukon Blonde.

Because, after all, it is Saturday night.

Water, water, everywhere

Folks.

Tonight I am concerned.

Mainly, my concern is such, that at the still relatively young age of thirty, I have become obsessed with how I spend my time in the shower.

And it’s not just that.

I’ve become obsessed with writing about it, and having other people read about these exploits.

This is strange.

I mean, it was only a few weeks ago that I was chronicling my new found love of baths, and now here I am, about to regale you with my new fangled method of showering.

Please bare with me.

(No pun intended.)

This past September I began going to the gym before work. I was having terrible problems with my Achilles and calf muscle in my left leg, and I was sure that running every morning was exacerbating the problem.

Turns out I was only partially right. The majority of my problems were coming from the fact that my anxiety issues were ramped up to eleven, and my body reacts terribly to stress. Anytime my life is shrouded by worry and unease, my system rebels and the first things to go are either my right knee or my left calf.

WHO KNEW?

Anyway, despite the fact that I had previously railed so valiantly against the gym, I gave in and bought a membership to the new Dynamic Fitness at the New Westminster Skytrain station.

I figured that I would go most mornings around 6:30am, work it like a madwoman for thirty minutes, and then shower and head to work.

And I was right! This plan has definitely worked a treat.

Most mornings I arrive between 6:30-6:45am, sprint on the treadmill for ten to fifteen minutes, move through a resistance circuit (mostly push-ups, squats, lunges, ab work, and pull-ups) and then bike as hard as I can for ten minutes to finish-up.

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Gym bagging it on my way to work.

On the weekends I do my long distance runs around the Lower Mainland, and once the afternoons begin to stay lighter for longer, I plan on again running after work.

(My dream is to start a regimen of two-a-days, where I work out in the morning and then run after work. I going to have to really channel my inner Sarah Connor to ever make that a reality.)

Anyways, back to mornings at the gym.

The thing that people fail to tell you about showering and changing at these spaces, is, when you’re operating on a similar schedule to mine, and giving yourself zero time to cool down post-bike, the very last thing you’ll ever want to do is step into a hot shower.

Because it will at best be uncomfortable, and at worst, leave you feeling as though you’re going to die in the excruciating depths of a fiery inferno.

And that really sucks.

So, what is an enterprising girl left to do?

The answer is, as I’ve now discovered, to take blindingly cold showers.

And this is awesome.

So much so that I have pretty much become addicted to them, and cannot even imagine taking a hot shower ever again (workout or no.)

There is something equal parts magical and terror-inducing stepping into the stall, anticipating that first hit of water, just knowing what is coming the second you place your head under the stream.

It’s like all of the air is simultaneously driven from your body and you’re left a sputtering and gasping mess, just trying to force breath in and out of your lungs.

For a person who spent a lot of time growing up imagining whether or not she would have survived the Russian Gulag, these showers give me some kind of weird assurance that maybe, just maybe, I could have hacked it in the Taiga. (Seriously though, this was a huge source of worry to me as both an adolescent and early adult. I mean, for one, I wear glasses. That surely would have signed my death warrant, would it have not? Second, I have never taken the time to properly memorize long poems penned by Pushkin and Gogel and every political prisoner memoire I ever read always detailed at length how important these works were to prisoner survival. How could I ever have made it through long periods of isolation? Obviously I would be hooped.)

Erm.

What was I talking about?

Oh yes.

Beginning my day with both a high-intensity workout and then a blisteringly cold shower has completely changed my outlook on mornings.

For the most part I have more energy, I eat better breakfasts, and I am more alert (especially when it comes to first-thing meetings.)

And I’m not just making this stuff up!

Cold showers are great for circulation, muscle and injury recovery, they (supposedly) aid in weight loss, and they definitely ease stress.

Plus, they make you feel like an epic badass!

This past Saturday I ran 30 kilometers, and despite this insane feat that did a crazy number on my body, I felt great enough to run both yesterday and today.

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Post 30km. FEELING IT.

And while I’m sure that my cold showers aren’t the sole reason behind my quick heal, I do have to give them some credit.

Because if I don’t, I know I’ll just keep writing about them.

And I don’t want this to be the material that you are forced to fall back on when you are shipped off to Baffin Island for forty years of hard labour.

You deserve a Pushkin poem for that.

And one that isn’t about baths.

Mine or otherwise.